Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Seesaw for Digital Portfolios

At NCTE this past year, I learned about an amazing new tool called Seesaw. I could barely hear what the presenter was saying about Seesaw, due to the crowded room, but I heard the speaker mention something about how parents can view the work at the same time it is posted and it acts as a digital portfolio. I decided to take a look and I happened across the  Seesaw website after some frantic Googling.

The following is taken from the Seesaw website...

I decided to give it a try as I've been trying to create digital portfolios over the last couple of years. I use Google Drive to create digital portfolios, but I always have students who forget to put the work in their portfolio. I thought this avenue might be easier...and it certainly was! I created a class in Seesaw and had my students sign up. It is completely free and very user friendly.  I can not say ENOUGH great things about this classroom tool! Using this site with 1-1 iPads has been so beneficial! 

It is so easy to post a photo of a worksheet, assignment, photo, or link and have the students access it! Instead of making copies of a daily math exercise, I take a photo of it on Seesaw and the students then solve the daily problem. Instead of making 24 copies, I can take a photo, post it, and everyone can see it...no more lost papers.  Some students choose to show their work via video, some choose to solve it on paper and post it, some choose to make a copy and write directly on the problem...students can choose the way that works BEST for them. It is SOOO easy to upload a document, post a link, create a note, add a photo or video, or add a drawing. Push the + button, click what you want to add, and add it! It's done! 

I give students journal prompts to support our read aloud or a topic that we are studying in class and the students post their thoughts in a journal post. An important thing to know is that you have to approve your student's work. You will also want to turn off your notifications or you will be bombarded with notifications when students submit assignments of comments. I warned you!  You can approve it post by post, or approve it all at once. I do both depending on the occasion or assignment,  and this a great feature because I can make sure that nothing inappropriate is posted. I post links for the students to support their learning, our class newsletter, publish writing, post a photo of an anchor chart, or give feedback on a student's post. I have found Seesaw to be a game-changer for me! 

I uploaded a reader's theater script(instead of copying it for everyone) and the students spent a week practicing for reader's theater and performing their parts by accessing their script in Seesaw. I saved at least one tree with that move! 
I post links to Padlets that we are working on and the students can easily access the Padlet and post their thoughts.  They can then go back to the post and see what their classmates have posted.  Parents can then easily access the padlet and see what their child posted as well. It's also easy to grade when everything is on the computer and easy to access. It saves me from carting papers back and forth in my book bag. 

Another great feature about Seesaw is the parent accessibility. I have parents sign up to access their child's work and they can look at what we are doing, like it(think Facebook), or even comment on their child's work. They receive an email notification or a text notification that lets them know that something has been added to their child's portfolio. They really enjoy seeing their child's work throughout the day. This really promotes parents being partners in the educational process. Parents appreciate this because when their child tells them that they didn't do anything in school that day, they can reference the work that they saw on Seesaw. :-) 

Seesaw is committed to keeping their site free. I sure hope that is true! It is such an amazing resource and I definitely encourage you to try it for the rest of the school year. You will be a believer in Seesaw too! 

P.S.-There is also a Blog feature to Seesaw. So check that out too! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Makerspace Monday

This week I tried something new. I decided to start Monday out with a bang! I decided to implement Makerspace Monday.  I have a whole slew of wonderful makerspace materials from a grant from our school district's foundation. I have used many of the materials in class already, but I wanted to be more consistent about when and how I use them. The 3D printer is a hit! The students love trying to navigate the Sperhos from their iPads. They love tinkering with the cubelets.  They enjoy building with Zoobs and creating new Zoob creations. 

Today, they were able to problem solve with the BrushBots.  Talk about a whole new excitement for learning! I started the lesson by putting together a short article to get them excited about Makerspaces. We read the article and coded it as we looked for new information, things that were interesting or surprising, things that we had more questions about, we circled unfamiliar vocabulary words, and marked things that made us think "WOW!" I was able to clear up many vocabulary words that I assumed that they knew but did not. It was also interesting to hear what students viewed as new information, exciting 'wow' facts, what they viewed as interesting or surprising, and I was able to answer any questions. 

+  New information
!   Wow!
*  I think this is interesting or surprising.
?  I have a question about this.
Circle unfamiliar vocabulary words

This is a BrushBot! 

After this close reading, I put up the BrushBot directions on the document camera and had them read through the directions. I posted the learning target and I had the students write down a few notes in their STEM Journals. I communicated to the students that they would be using their problem solving skills while they created BrushBots. What I failed to predict was just how much my students would actually use their problem skills! 

I put out the materials on the table and students were called up to get their materials and supplies. When I was asked a question, I told them that they would have to use their problem solving skills. It was hard to bite my tongue and not give them more guidance, but I really wanted to see what they could do on their own. The only thing that I did for each student was strip the wires on their BrushBot as it would have been difficult for them to do that part on their own. I heard so many problem solving, collaborating, communication, and critical thinking skills in action. Students were able to get their BrushBots working, move it in the right direction(for the most part), help their friends troubleshoot, and learn about basic electronics. 

After everyone had built their BrushBot, a few boys built a racetrack on the linoleum floor. They used Hot Wheels tracks to build racing lanes for four BrushBots at a time. We added a starting line and a finish line and held a BrushBot race. Not part of the original plan, but well worth the extra time!
The BrushBot track

The excitement and engagement was through the roof. All the while, learning was happening! The discussions, the problem solving, the advice to others, the new ideas, the design process in action...all of these were observed today.  

The finish line

The top four winners raced in the final heat and we crowned our top two winners. After the racing was done, the students wrote a reflection in their digital portfolio on Seesaw. Here is a sample...

"Today, for Makerspace Monday, we made our own BrushBots. We learned how to use our problem-solving skills while doing this. The most challenging thing during this for me was connecting the wires correctly. The most fun thing was watching it in action. What went well for me was direction. I figured out how to make it go backwards and forwards. What went wrong for me was, well... technical difficulties. Something I would keep for this activity would be the racing. I really liked that part. Something I would modify on my BrushBot would be angling the bristles. All in all, I had a lot of fun."

"Brush-Bots-  This was a really fun to thing for me I enjoyed experimenting to make it better. The whole designing process went well for me, except for that time where it non functioned and it went crazy. Then I had some troubles with tying the wires together. If I were to modify my brush-bot I would put more weight on one side so it would go straight. Another thing I might want to experiment with is modifying the bristles on the tooth brush. I loved maker bot Monday and I would definitely want to do it again!"-Shaun

The students loved Makerspace Monday and want to have it everyday. I told them that it will not just be limited to Mondays, but Mondays will be a given and a great way to start the week! That ought to help get them out of bed on Monday mornings! 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why I Write...

I write as a challenge.
I write to teach my students.
I write to improve myself.
I write as an expression of my thoughts.
I write to share what I do in my classroom.
I write for enjoyment. 

I've never LOVED writing-but I'm starting to enjoy the challenge of writing as an adult. Growing up, I vividly remember writing papers for school(spaced every other line for editing purposes) and having my mom read the paper and then proceed to 'rip it apart.' I remember the frustration of having to make corrections, take out useless words that didn't add value, fix spelling errors(thank goodness I was a good speller), reword sentences, fix sentence fragments, take apart run-on sentences, add description, and improve my topic sentence and conclusions. I would sit there in frustration and think that my mom was the meanest mom in the whole world for doing this to me. Little did I know, this was all part of the process of learning how to write and creating a strong writing foundation. It helped that she was a teacher and knew what she was talking about. Of course, I didn't realize her impact until I was much older. Now, I sit here next to my 14-year-old daughter and read her papers on Google Docs and I experience flashbacks of me sitting by my mother.  Now I'm on the other side of the editing. I can hear my mother's voice as I edit her paper. I see many of the same things that I used to do as a writer.  She gets frustrated...I get frustrated...am I harming her...helping her?  Is there a perfect balance of constructive criticism, feedback, and praise?  I'm not sure I've found that balance yet. 

In high school, my friend Joe encouraged me to write poetry. For fun...
I told him that I couldn't. He assured me that I could. He would pass me a poem in the hallway(you know...notebook paper folded up into a little square) and I would read it and laugh...because he was hilarious. Then it was my turn to try. I would attempt to write a poem, send it back via the same method, and he would say, "Good job-see you CAN do it." We did this for awhile, I don't remember for how long this went on, but I remember being proud of myself and I remember Joe as someone who encouraged me as a writer. 

Fast forward to college-THE Ohio State University! I was 19 and I had a creative writing class during one of my elementary education strands with the coolest professor ever. She definitely wasn't the norm. She was approachable, down to earth, an optimist, she encouraged persistence and resilience, and she wore her long brownish/grayish hair in a ponytail straight down her back. Her name was Carolyn and she made writing fun! We sang operas based off of our writing, had 3rd grade pen pals, and acted out our poetry. She had a cart of writing supplies-it was a teacher's dream! She had papers of all colors, textures, and sizes. She had colored pencils, felt tip pens, markers, and fun pencils. We were instructed to write whatever we wanted. For the first time ever in my life, I had a choice-I could write a poem, a story, a narrative, my innermost thoughts! It made writing enjoyable. Now, as teachers of students, we KNOW and SEE the positive effects of CHOICE and can see how this impacts a child and their engagement. 

After that creative writing class at age 19, the only writing that I did was for academic purposes. I wrote papers upon papers during graduate school and for post-graduate courses. Then work and family got in the way...and no writing was done unless it was for an academic purpose. 

I started this blog. I started it on a whim. I had been reading educational blogs via Twitter and I felt inspired to start my own. I needed a challenge, I wanted to communicate with others in the field of education, and I wanted to share what was happening in my classroom.  It was uncomfortable at first and sometimes it still is! 
Would people think it was self-centered to write a blog?
Would people think that I thought I was better than them?
Would people think I was annoying?
Would anyone EVEN read the blog? 
Maybe my mom would read it-if I sent her the link via email. OR maybe my close friend would read it if I told her about it. OR maybe someone would end up on my blog by accident. 

I had many doubts, fears, insecurities, and anxieties about putting my writing out there for anyone to read. It was risky...and I don't do risky very well. 

Now, two years later and almost 100,000 hits later, I'm shocked at the smallness of our world.  I can publish a new post and SOME people will read it. Sometimes certain posts are read more than others-and that's fine with me! It's not about the number of hits.  It's a creative outlet, it's a new challenge for me, it's helped me to share my voice, it's helped me to become a better writer, it's helped me to become a more thoughtful teacher, and it's connected me with some amazing people. The best thing is that I am STILL learning how to be a writer(I have a ways to go!) and I have new people shaping me a writer. 

SO...I'm not sure if I should thank my mom for helping me as a writer, or Joe from high school for encouraging me to write poems for fun, or Carolyn the writing teacher from Ohio State, or other teacher bloggers for inspiring me, or my students for giving me topics to write about. All of these people have shaped me a writer and have helped me to be JUST BRAVE ENOUGH to write this blog. 

It has brought me...JOY!